Q. Dear Mexican: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that Mexican-Americans have the highest proportion of DUIs and alcohol-related traffic fatalities of any ethnic group (60 percent, as opposed to 40 percent for Caucasians—they’re even substantially higher than any other Latino group). I apologize that this question isn’t wisecrack-y, but that statistic is terrible. What’s the deal with all the boozy driving and carnage? —Sick of Sangre
A. Dear Gabacho : You’re right about the horridness of the stats, though wrong on some of the details: The NHTSA doesn’t regularly keep track of ethnicity and alcohol-related crashes. Its last comprehensive report was Ethnicity and Alcohol-Related Fatalities: 1990 to 1994, and that survey found Native Americans were the ethnic group most likely to die in a drunk-driving accident, with Mexicans placing second. The proportions you cited were also wrong: The correct figures are 54.6 percent of Mexicans who die in auto accidents had been drinking and 44.2 percent for gabachos. Don’t think I’m splitting hairs here—alcoholism among Mexicans is a blight as terrible as Carlos Mencia— but I wanted to establish the facts before moving on to theories. Why more drinking and driving among Mexicans? I can toss out ideas—culture, peer pressure, the sirenic taste of Herradura tequila begging for just one more shot before calling it a night— but they’re all lacking. One explanation that definitely isn’t valid is machismo, at least as a uniquely Mexican phenomenon. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s 2003 paper “Alcohol Use and Related Problems Among Ethnic Minorities in the United States,” that theory “isn’t supported by research findings. . . . Close examination of machismo among White, Black and Mexican American men . . . has shown that machismo is related to alcohol use among men irrespective of ethnic group and that it is not a valid explanation for the high levels of drinking among Mexican Americans.” Honestly, there is no answer for your pregunta, Sick of Sangre—alcohol and logic repel each other like “border” and “enforcement.”
Q. I’m wondering if güero is related to gwailo, the Cantonese slur for a white person (the word is literally “ghost man”). A Chinese-language site defines a related word, waigwailo , as gringo. Another interesting similarity is the word waraji—Japanese for a traditional sandal made of rope ( wara is a kind of rope)—which sounds like huarache. Another mystery: Is chingao Cantonese? —Secret Asian Man
A. Dear Chinito: Interesting similarities—really reaffirms my belief in the Jungian concept of universal archetypes. Alas, it’s just wishful thinking on both of our parts. As I explained a couple of months ago in this column, güero comes from the medieval Spanish word guerar, which referred to brooding chickens and originally had nothing to do with color. Huarache, meanwhile, comes from the Tarasco language of Michoacán and not from Hasekura Tsunenaga, the 17th-century samurai who traveled through modern-day Mexico on his way to visit the Pope. And chingao is the past participle of the verb chingar, which is derived from a Romany term meaning “to fight.” I appreciate the intercultural goodwill, Secret Asian Man, but unfortunately any Chinese or Japanese influences on Mexican Spanish largely rest in the kiddie refrain: “Chino, chino, japonés . . . Come caca y no me des (Chinese, Chinese, Japanese . . . Eat shit and don’t give me any).” And we Mexicans wonder why more chinitos don’t march alongside us during amnesty rallies. . . .